Children = Targets


The food and beverage industries alone spend between $10 and $12 billion per year marketing to youth, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine released last September.

The same report revealed that the average child views more than 40,000 TV commercials per year! Young children are obviously not developed enough physically, mentally or emotionally to properly discern commercials that prey on their propensity toward vanity, selfishness, lust or greed. The American Psychological Association recommends that advertising directed to children under 8 years old be restricted. Yet companies, often assisted by developmental psychologists, will exploit children’s vulnerabilities and their sensual sensitivities.

The marketing industry has a term it uses called the “nag factor,” otherwise known as “pester power.” Ads targeted to children that have a high nag factor are more likely to provoke them into nagging or pestering their parent(s) until the parent relents. It is estimated that around $200 billion per year is spent by parents goaded by nagging children. Moreover, a poll conducted in 1999 by the Center for a New American Dream found that over half the parents admitted to buying things for their children that they disapproved of! (While this illustrates the power of children’s advertising, it does not excuse the lack of control exhibited by the parents.)

Even schools are affected. About 12,000 schools have marketing deals with Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and other companies through the Channel One Network. The companies give the schools money, supplies and 10 minutes of daily news programming in exchange for the right to advertise their products on the classroom TVs.

Parents need to be aware of the pervasive and powerful influence of advertising targeted to children and work to counter its negative effects through heightened awareness, limited exposure and vigilant teaching.